Judge: Florida newlywed lost at sea declared dead
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A judge has declared a missing Florida newlywed dead, almost two years to the day she disappeared while honeymooning in the Bahamas.
The May 9th order declares that Isabella Hellman, 41, is presumed dead at sea.
Her husband Lewis Bennet, 42, faces sentencing in his wife’s death this month after pleading guilty in November to involuntary manslaughter. The plea agreement caps his potential prison sentence at 8 years.
Bennet was found alone in a lifeboat packed with provisions and $100,000 worth of stolen coins. He and repeatedly claimed he was asleep below deck and discovered his wife missing when their catamaran took on water on May 14, 2017. Authorities searched for Hellman for four days, but never found her body. The FBI said an inspection found that holes in the hull were inflicted from the inside, and hatches were opened in a deliberate attempt to sink the boat.
Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Scott Suskauer ordered the FBI to give the keys to Hellman’s condominium in Delray Beach to an attorney representing her parents so it can be sold, the South Florida SunSentinel reported . The condo is valued at $130,000 and her bank accounts totaled $41,117. She had $8,524 in credit card bills.
The judge also ordered that $18,000 be placed in a trust fund for their daughter, Emelia. The child, who turns 3 in July, now lives with Bennett’s parents in Scotland. The remaining money will go toward debts and defense attorney fees.
Bennett’s sentencing is set for May 28 in Miami. He apologized to Hellman’s family in court in January, noting their “unimaginable pain.”